Why Apple’s sealed, non-user-serviceable MacBook Pro with Retina display is a very good thing

“With Apple’s announcement of the new MacBook Pro, the interwebs had to find something to fret about and it appears that repair and upgradability is the new hobby horse for pundits to ride,” Michael Pusateri writes for Cruftbox. “Kyle Wiens of iFixit wrote a good opinion story on the new MacBook Pro. I can’t disagree with what he wrote, it’s completely accurate. But he’s completely wrong that it’s a problem.”

ZDNet, MSNBC, and CNET have all jumped on the FUD bandwagon with the story,” Pusateri writes.

MacDailyNews Take: Bastions of fine journalism, all.

Pusateri writes, “Choo, choo, all aboard the Pundit Express to PageHitsVille!”

“Thanks to a lucky combination of good brain wiring, an electrical engineer father, and an understanding and patient wife, I do a lot of repair and fixing around the home. I’ve repaired everything from our house wiring, dish washers, dryers, ovens, lamps, clocks, to the assorted home electronics of friends and family. I build my desktop computer from scratch. I like fixing things,” Pusateri writes. “But it’s a skill set that’s in decline.”

“The decline is not due to some evil plan by manufacturers, it’s due to the public desire for better products to appear regularly. The desire to buy good, low price, and reliable products that work out of the box is the driver for seeing the lack of ‘fixability’ in the new laptop line,” Pusateri writes “And it’s not a bad thing.”

Pusateri writes, “To meet the demands of today’s consumer, modern manufacturing basically requires the very measures that the punditry is railing against. Fastening optimization, robotic soldering, minimization of variation, exacting tolerances, and made to order componentry are required to delivery great products. To ask that every piece of modern electronics is designed to allow the tiny fraction of hackers to upgrade is the height of hubris, unreasonable, and a huge imposition on everyone else that has no desire to ever crack the case. All that ‘upgradability’ ends up making the product cost more and be more susceptible to failure. Catering to the fringe is not the way to make good products.”

Read more, including vacuum tubes and 1970s do-it-yourself TV repair at the supermarket, in the full article – recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “kevin p.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Teardown of MacBook Pro’s Retina display shows off ‘engineering marvel’ – June 19, 2012
Teardown of MacBook Pro with Retina Display reveals soldered RAM, glued-in battery – June 13, 2012

AP reviews Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display: An epiphany, makes all other screens look dull and fuzzy – June 16, 2012
Reg Hardware reviews Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina display: Drool-worthy – June 15, 2012
USA Today reviews Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina display: Powerfully robust, an object of desire – June 14, 2012
ABC News reviews Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina display: If you have the money, this is the one to buy – June 14, 2012
Engadget reviews Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina display: Redefines the professional notebook – June 13, 2012
PC Magazine reviews Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina display: Editor’s choice – June 13, 2012
Apple debuts new TV ad for MacBook Pro with Retina display: ‘Every Dimension’ (with video) – June 13, 2012
AnandTech analyzes Apple’s new MacBook Pro Retina display: ‘Everything is ridiculously crisp’ – June 12, 2012
Hands-on with Apple’s new MacBook Pro with Retina display (with video) – June 12, 2012
Apple unveils all new MacBook Pro with stunning Retina display – June 11, 2012

94 Comments

  1. i have replaced vacuum tubes in tvs and fixed lots of electrical stuff (including phone wiring which is inevitably done wrong originally esp. the second line). i have replaced stuff in my cars including a turn signal stalk on an old v.w. bug in a driving snowstorm. i am completely happy with not having to do this ever again.

    1. When you compare the amount of people who even upgrade thier Apple laptops with 3rd party RAM and HD drives to the amount of people who never mess with thier laptop at all you will find that’s it’s closer to 98.99% or higher for the no modifications crowd. That’s the market Apple is going after not a hobbytop but a laptop. This laptop is packed with all sorts of goodness. Something’s needed to be streamlined. Get over it. Wait until they make what you want or buy the current MacBook pro.Maybe some day soon they will make a MacBook pro with a retina display in it with enough space for you to tinker. As of now they don’t and that’s fine for the incredibly vast majority of consumers. To say Apple screwed up is insane. This was the same argument given about the iPad. I wanna put my own third party stuff in it. I want to buy the low end and put the high end stuff in. When your laptop catches fire, when you only get 2 hours battery life don’t blame apple blame yourself. No I’m not saying that putting a drive or RAM in a laptop is going to cause a fire but I bet the amount of blown laptops due to ESD (electro static discharge) or cross connecting a drive a huge cost to Apple. So we got a thinner laptop and lighter laptop and there is a trade off. Boo fricken who.
      It could have been much worse.

      Dude your getting a Dell.

    2. Well said @el Tritoma.

      Brought back memories of trying to identify broken vacuum tubes using the numbered stickers-store tester method while being careful to not touch the picture tube itself and ending up flatlined!

      1. Oh, so that’s the reason Apple has made the Retina MacBooks unserviceable, to prevent their customers from dying an excrutiating death from electrocution. However, Apple must not care about the users of all other Macs.

    3. I for one will miss being able to upgrade my computers, but c’est la vie.

      I am cynical enough to not believe this is just because of size constraints. Now when you want to upgrade, you basically look at a new computer. Not bad if your’e Apple.

      1. If you want very thin, very light, you must give up various connectors, access points, etc. that you would otherwise build in to allow for removal of various components.

        The other fact is that after about 5 years much of the components of a laptop are so out of date that even replacing a few things will not help it run the latest OS or other software. And as the author points out, very, very few people even want to think about opening a laptop and digging around inside.

        I just tried this with my wife’s old MacBookPro (about 5-6 years old). It works fine, but the 120 GB hard drive simply wasn’t enough space for her any longer. Bought a Western Digital hard drive from Newegg, installed it (actually with some help from the Genius Bar), the Apple Store installed OS X for me, but it turned out I had received a bad drive. So I had to pull the new drive, reinstall the old one, and return the drive to Newegg (Newegg was great, BTW). All this after cloning the old drive, time spent, etc. etc.

        So now my wife has a new MBP and my daughter has a very nice used MBP.

    4. I admire anyone who can do their own fix-it jobs. It’s truly a dying art.

      However, I have to wonder what the heck was so urgent about fixing a turn signal stalk in a snowstorm? I realize that there’s comfort in knowing that drivers ahead and behind you need to know your intentions when it comes to turning, but holy cow, I see idjits every day who crowd in ahead of drivers without so much as a single blink. And that’s on sunny days!

      Is there anyone here who even has a clue about what’s what under the hood of any car made in the past ten years? I wouldn’t dare touch anything any more.

      1. …and when was the last time that car I bought in the last ten years broke down OH YEAH NEVER. And that’s a coincidence, because “never” is also how many times I’ve filled a PCI slot with anything other than a second video card, and even those days are long gone.
        Personally, if a computer works for years without me having to fiddle with it then I’m happy as a pig in shit. I’ve found that if I just stay away from Seagate hard drives this is possible.

        1. Agreed! Reliability keeps improving, and the need for aftermarket upgrades gets less. I configured the order for my new MacBook Pro Retina to cover my needs for the next 5 years. It’s got 16 GB RAM, a vast improvement (for my work) over my previous laptop with 4 GB RAM. And the display is a delight to my aged eyes.

          I paid more for my Mac Portable and some subsequent PowerBooks than for the MBP Retina — and the dollar was worth more back then.

          Thanks, Apple, for a heck of a bargain!

  2. I do think you should be able to change the battery, upgrade memory and upgrade the hard drive/SSD. These should be easy things to make accessible. Having to pay Apple for it’s super special proprietary and very expensive memory chips is great for Apple, but terrible for consumers. Same for hard drives/SSD.

    1. I think this is the very reason that the original MacBook Pro still exists. Apple appears to be aware that the new design may not satisfy everyone, so they’ve left you a choice. Maybe they learned from the Final Cut Pro X debacle not to kill off a loved product until they are sure the new product will be well received.

      1. I don’t agree with that all, I think the reason the Original MacBook Pro still exist is because apple not everyone could spend $2100+ on a MacBook Pro no matter how good it is!

      1. You could swap those out on the vast majority of computers when floppy drives were standard equipment and were still viable storage mediums.

        If you really need one these days you can technically still find USB external versions LOL

            1. Americans gotta learn where their own words come from… it’s just your damn own language – so, please.
              I’m gettin’ the shakes when I get to read something like ‘cator’. doesn’t look like a typing error.

    2. “I do think you should be able to change the battery, upgrade memory and upgrade the hard drive/SSD.”

      Agreed. I don’t really care about being able to get to everything. But these are pretty basic, and I like the idea that I can replace ’em or upgrade if I need to.

  3. The only thing I foresee in the future is, when these Macs do get old, you won’t be able to upgrade the RAM. RAM limitations are one of the most debilitating things about old computers. It’s like, “I’d love to use that old machine, but it’s soooooo slow.”

    Apple is risking more on the whole warranty thing: If one RAM chip goes bad, new MLB. Granted, Apple’s service is amazing, but unless Genius Bar workers we going to do MLB’s right there in front of you, you’re without your machine. Maybe soldiered-on RAM fails less b/c no one handled it on install. Will Genius Bar people do SSD’s on these new Macs?

    1. Technical question:
      Could it be possible to use an external SS-Memory device as additional RAM? Say, a USB3 memory stick (or a Thunderbolt equivalent). Just plug a 16 gig stick into a port, and hey presto, instant 16gig RAM upgrade…?

      1. Good call. Thunderbolt does have the bandwidth, but I’m not sure about the logistics. EE’s seem to be able to get anything to hook-up to anything else given enough time. I never would’ve thought of video through USB, but it can be done.

    1. I care about mobility. I repair my computers, client computers, all the time. Mostly though, it’s upgrades. I just put 900GB SSD in my 17″ MacBook Pro. It was very nice to be able to do so. It’s an entire industry that’s going by the wayside, and I’m talking about the parts, not the actual people who do the repairs.

      Nonetheless, I’m terribly pleased with this new Retina Display MBP. The screen is as gorgeous as everyone has said.

      Seriously, it’s not like it’s the end of the world, I think many of us are just lamenting the loss of choice, the restriction of some freedoms, knowing that if I find I can’t live with this machine the way it is, I’m going to have to sell it and buy a new one. Only option.

  4. BS. Adding RAM or replacing a hardive are not extreme measures for any user. Apple has sacrificed user friendliness for the single goal of “thinness” and, at the same time, has made the costs of repair and maintenance exorbitant or impossible. Actually, Apple engineers and designers would have proven their technical expertise by making the new Retina MacBook Pros both thin and user serviceable. Frankly, I’m not impressed with the result of the current design. Apple is apparently fat and sassy, and particularly unmotivated in design upgrades. Way to go, guys!

    1. I disagree, it’s not a single goal. Thinness is not the only reason to make these no user serviceable. If the battery can not be removed, it can be large and more efficient as it doesn’t need to make room for all the structure’s needed to allow the user to replace it. Same thing goes with the hard drive and the RAM.

      Also, don’t be so quick to poo poo the thinness angle either. those few extra pounds and millimeters they shave off, makes this device that much more portable. You’d be surprised how quickly weight and size add up when you have to lug something around all day.

      1. Has American spawned a generation of wussess. The weight saving is mere ounces. It’s not like the only reasonable option is having to strap a 35 pound device on your back. There is a rate of diminishing return and Apple is now selling them to the gullible.

        1. Wusses. So anyone who doesn’t want to carry around extra weight for no reason is now a wuss?

          Do you walk around with lead weights strapped to each limb? No?

          Wuss.

          What’s worse than your ignorant statement that people only want thinner, lighter, sleeker devices because they are too weak to carry them around, is your assertion that what your preferences are must necessarily match up with the general public and if they don’t then there’s something wrong with everyone else.

          You don’t want the device, don’t buy it. My feeling is this is the future of all laptops and will sell in the hundreds of millions with these so called limitations.

          You will be in the cranky whining minority of old sourpusses who don’t get it and growl for the damn kids to get off your lawn.

          The good news is you don’t run Apple.

          1. Apple could make notebook cases out of expanded metal. That should prevent thousands of strained muscles and hundreds of visits to the ED from over exertion that the wuss generation may suffer. Poor little, wusses, you wanna a hanky, too?

            1. Awww, does wittle MacFreek hate progress?

              If you had your way, I bet laptops would be as large, chunky, and impractical as the Osbourne 1. Because thinning them down and making them lighter is “for wusses”, after all.

              By the way, if you had ever replaced the harddrive in an Apple laptop from at least the iBook onwards, you would never, ever, ever say that replacing its harddrive is not an extreme measure for any user.

            2. Denying users the capacity to replace RAM, exchange a hardrive, or insert a new battery is not progress. Maybe you need a computer with training wheels, I don’t.

  5. If Apple put in doors and hatches to provide access to all those parts, and used “generic” components that users can swap out, the new MacBook Pro would not be what it is. It would be thicker and heavier.

    The MacBook Air is designed the same way as the new MacBook Pro, and it has been extremely popular.

  6. Common sense reins! A great distillation of th BS that comes from the tech geeks. Are any of these jerkwads complaining about not being able to “upgrade their 50 inch plasma? Just hit whoring at its finest.

  7. The vast majority of Apple owners are not the least bit inclined to go mucking about in the innards of their Apple products… for the few tinkerers there are other options… maybe Heathkit has a laptop you can assemble. It will be 5 inches thick, weigh 9 pounds but you will be able to take it all apart and show it off to your buddys… If you can’t live with Apple decisions then move on to something else

    1. The great oracle has spoken, not just for himself, but the “majority” of all Mac users. Had I known of your omniscience I would not have posted. Thank you for gracing us with your supreme intellect and understanding.

      1. No…Apple has spoken for the majority of all users. They would be the ones in the position to know what the majority of all users do with their hardware since they have data to back it up.

  8. Good design should NOT require that an item be replaced rather than repaired or upgraded. This applies to computers, washing machines, TVs, etc. Poor design builds needless waste into products.

    Good design should allow for cost-effective upgrade and/or repair. That need not be at the user level, but however it’s accomplished, it should be a cost-effective alternative to extend the useful life of high-cost goods.

    1. uhhh…sorry but when was the last time you upgraded your TV, or washing machine instead of just replacing it? Because I’ve never done that. I would be willing to bet that 99.9% of the population of the planet we live on has never done that either.

      TVs and washing machines are sooooo much cheaper (proportionally) now then when they first came out because of the closed way in which they are manufactured.

      1. If the belt in your washing machine breaks how often do you replace the whole machine? Gawd, what phenomenal ignorance or stupidity. You have inadvertently given credence to the people you rile against.

        1. I said upgrade, I didn’t say repair. These laptops can be repaired if they break. I would never replace the belt on my own washing machine, I’d pay some one to do it. Belt replacement on a washing machine is beyond the technical knowhow of the vast majority of people in the US to be sure. Same way I’d pay (or not pay if it’s under warranty) to have my laptop fixed.

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